Code of Conduct for MPs in Bangladesh Hangs in Balance

Bangladesh Parliament Building

For more than three and a half years, the Jatiya Sangsad [Parliament of Bangladesh] has not been able to pass the bill seeking formulation of a code of conduct for lawmakers due to the unwillingness of the treasury bench.

Without the code of conduct, legislators’ abuse of power and their use of vulgar words in parliament go on.

Ruling Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury placed the bill in January, 2010, and the parliamentary standing committee on the private members’ bills and resolutions has already recommended passing of the bill to ensure ethical standards of lawmakers, according to parliament secretariat officials.

A senior parliament secretariat official told The Daily Star yesterday, “Usually after recommendation of a parliamentary body for passage of a bill, we include it in the order of the day for the House to decide its fate. But we have made no move to include the code of conduct bill in the order of the day as we have not received any directive from the higher authorities.”

Usually, the Speaker, in consultation with the leader of the House, places bills on the order of the day, which is the agenda of the House.

The bill proposed to form a nine-member ethics committee led by the Speaker to investigate allegations against lawmakers. The ethics committee would have representatives from lawmakers of all political parties.

On the matter of freedom of speech in parliament, the bill said lawmakers’ speeches must follow the norms of democracy and tolerance. Their speeches must be objective, thoughtful and logical. They should consciously avoid causing harm to any individual who does not enjoy the same privileges [of a parliamentarian], the bill says.

The bill requires that the legislators should not knowingly mislead the parliament or the public through the statements they make. The bill also imposes an obligation upon them to correct parliamentary records as soon as possible when incorrect statements are made unintentionally.

The demand for passage of the bill has come to the forefront again following the recent vulgar words used by some lawmakers in parliament.

“Passage of the bill has been an urgent need to protect the dignity of the House,” former adviser to a caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan told The Daily Star on Friday.

Abdul Matin Khasru, chief of the parliamentary standing committee on the private members’ bills and resolutions, said some lawmakers’ use of vulgar words have not only tainted their images but has also undermined the dignity of the parliament.
“It is contempt of parliament. So the MP [member of parliament] who is accused of the offence should face punishment,” said Khasru, also a former law minister.

Khasru, also law secretary of ruling Awami League, yesterday said he would talk to the leader of the House today or tomorrow requesting her to have the bill placed for voting.


Originally published by The Daily Star.

Photo by m.n.azam.

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